Secrets of Selling: Don't Spill Your Candy in the Lobby

When meeting with a prospective client, do you try to talk less, listen more and provide thoughtful answers to their questions? Or do you just dive right in and let motor mouth get the best of you? Sell more effectively with this sales secret.

Imagine you and your significant other have decided to catch the latest thriller at the local multiplex movie theater. After purchasing your ticket, you head directly to the new candy station that allows you to choose a few pieces of each of your favorite brands. You formulate a plan: You’ll eat the jelly beans during the previews, then the nonpareils during the first part of the movie, and save the malted milk balls until the thrilling climax. As you head toward your theater, you fail to notice the teenager leaning against the lobby wall, his foot just slightly in your way. You trip, but catch yourself before you fall. Your candy, however, isn’t so lucky. It is strewn all over the lobby floor. You didn’t even make it to your seat!  What about your plan? How are you going to enjoy the movie now?

What does this have to do with selling? All too often, we salespeople do the equivalent when we interact with a new prospect. We have a plan in mind for the initial sales interview. We have learned that it is important to ask a lot of questions; that is “selling isn’t telling.” We know we want to gather as much information as we can before we make our “pitch.”

We shake hands and sit down, and after a little bit of rapport-building banter, the prospect asks us a question like, “So, what can you do for us?” or “Why do you think we should do business with you?”  Unfortunately, we have become so well versed in our features, benefits and advantages that we can’t help but share our excitement. We begin to talk passionately about our wonderful products and services, about all the wonderful things we have done for other people, about how our stuff is the greatest in the world, and how, best of all, it comes with us and we provide the best personal service in town.

The prospect might then ask how much this stuff will cost, so we share our pricing schedule with them, and perhaps launch into a return-on-investment analysis to show them that other clients have recovered the investment in as little as six months. 

Then, all of a sudden, it dawns on us: We just “spilled our candy in the lobby!” What happened to our plan to get to know their business better, to ask more questions? We’ve been there for an hour, and we were talking for 50 minutes of it!

Why is this a problem? Because they have our information, they have our price. In other words, they have everything they need to start shopping us around, or maybe even do it themselves. And what do we have? Only a sore throat from talking too much.

The challenge lies in how effectively we can learn to use our product and industry knowledge. We certainly know a lot of stuff—we proved that when we talked for 50 minutes without a break. But did we accomplish our goals of finding their real issues, determining their budget and understanding their decision processes?

We use our knowledge effectively when we ask the right questions—questions that will allow our prospects to discover that we are the answer to their problems. Next time, don’t spill your candy in the lobby! 

Tom Scully is sales consultant and owner of a Sandler Training franchise in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.


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  • Next up: How to Sell When Times Get Tough

    How to Sell When Times Get Tough

    Selling is not for the faint of heart. But often times negative feelings breed negative outcomes. Learn how to change your mindset and give yourself a little edge over the competition.

    Many people I talk to are saying in frustration, “I’m not having fun selling anymore!” or, “It’s really tough out there!”

    It is all a matter of perspective. Sure, it can be “tough” and not as much “fun.” You know the old saying:  “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it!” and it would probably be worse because you would have even more competition and receive more stalls, objections, put-offs and excuses.

    If you believe it is tough, it will be tough. Napoleon Hill said, “That which your mind can believe, it can achieve.”

    If what you believe is negative, what do you achieve? Right! The negative!

    I suggest that we look at our paradigms. A paradigm is an accepted model of the way things are, or a belief, or a perception about something. Change your paradigm. Change the way you think about it.  When you change the way you think about something, you change your behavior and, in turn, change the result or outcome.

    Let’s look at some past paradigms that have changed. Many of us, when we were kids, would hear: “We can no more do that than fly to the moon!” We’ve changed that! Some of us are still waiting for something wonderful to happen to us. Some people don’t realize that it is up to them to make things happen.

    So let’s revisit the “Tough Times” paradigm and change it. If it is “tough” out there, that could be positive. That means your competitors are faced with the same potential obstacles you may be facing.

    What does that mean? All that means is that you need an “edge.” You just need to be a little bit better.

    We don’t get better by:

    • Complaining about it;
    • Feeling sorry for ourselves; or
    • Sitting down after a tough day and watching TV and having a few drinks

    We get our “edge” by:

    • honing our skills;
    • learning from every situation we are in by debriefing ourselves;
    • practicing;
    • thinking;
    • dreaming;
    • visualization;
    • goal setting;
    • planning;
    • developing new tools;
    • learning;
    • implementing;
    • challenging ourselves;
    • going beyond the norm;
    • risking;
    • education; and
    • asking ourselves: Where can I be better and how do I get better?

    Sure, it is hard work, but the reward! Ah, the reward!

    You all know successful people and you may be one of them. They didn’t get where they are by accident.  They got there by working at it one step at a time and continue to do so.

    That starts with understanding yourself.

    Tom Scully is sales consultant and owner of a Sandler Training franchise in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

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  • Next up: Selling Tech in a Volatile Economy

    Selling Tech in a Volatile Economy

    Signs are appearing that the economy is improving, but it remains on shaky ground.  Our panelists, from Warwick Communications and Hileman Enterprises, both veterans of multiple business cycles, share their take on selling tech in the current economy.

    Signs are appearing that the economy is improving, but it remains on shaky ground.  Our panelists, from Warwick Communications and Hileman Enterprises, both veterans of multiple business cycles, share their take on selling tech in the current economy.

    Listen here.

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  • Next up: Selling to Fortune 500s featuring Vertex Computer Systems

    Selling to Fortune 500s featuring Vertex Computer Systems

    NEOSA recently spent time with Ganesh Iyer, President of Vertex Computer Systems, to discuss the company's successful apporaches to landing large clients and keeping them as customers. Vertex provides a variety of IT services, predominately in the custom development space; prominent clients include P&G, Sherwin-Williams and others.

    NEOSA recently spent time with Ganesh Iyer, President of Vertex Computer Systems, to discuss the company's successful apporaches to landing large clients and keeping them as customers. Vertex provides a variety of IT services, predominately in the custom development space; prominent clients include P&G, Sherwin-Williams and others.

    Listen here.


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  • Next up: Senate Bill 220 Data Protection Act Written Testimony

    Senate Bill 220 Data Protection Act Written Testimony

    Senate Bill 220:  Data Protection Act Written Testimony by Timothy M. Opsitnick

    Technology Concepts & Design, Inc. (TCDI) June 27, 2018

    Chairman Blessing and members of the Ohio House Government Oversight & Accountability Committee, my name is Tim Opsitnick.  I am the Executive Vice President & General Counsel at Technology Concepts & Design, Inc. (TCDI), a company that provides cybersecurity, data privacy, computer forensics, electronic discovery and litigation management services.  My practice focuses on the investigation of data incidents and cybersecurity services.  I founded a company almost twenty years ago that was recently acquired by TCDI.  For thirty years, TCDI has been a leader in the marketplace, providing value to our clients through proprietary eDiscovery and litigation management software.  To that end, the collection of litigation related data has encouraged TCDI to be a leader in the protection of its client data.  I am proudly based in Cleveland, Ohio and I also serve on the Attorney General’s CyberOhio Advisory Board, a group composed of state industry experts and business leaders aimed at helping Ohio’s businesses fight back against cyber-attacks. 

    Thank you for the opportunity to provide written testimony in favor of Senate Bill 220 (SB 220) on behalf of members of the Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP) and its small business division, the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE).  Our organization is the largest Chamber of Commerce in the country and represents the most comprehensive small, middle market, and large business organizations in the state with more than 10,000 business members in Northeast Ohio. 

    GCP member companies have increasingly identified cybersecurity as an emerging issue and significant challenge.  Over the course of the last several months, we have had encouraging dialogue, resulting in the introduction of this legislation and ultimately the organization’s support for SB 220. 

    We strongly support providing a legal safe harbor opportunity for covered entities that implement a specified cybersecurity program because the legislation provides an incentive to encourage businesses to achieve a higher level of cybersecurity through voluntary action.  The purpose of SB 220 is to create an affirmative defense to a cause of action sounding in tort related to a data breach and it would apply to all businesses that include and comply with certain cybersecurity frameworks.  The bill, also known as the Data Protection Act, is not a mandate and it would not create a minimum cybersecurity standard. 

    As you know, the use of technology to conduct business efficiently in the marketplace is practically unavoidable.  Unfortunately, the technology we use daily is vulnerable and can be hacked.  Accordingly, the consequences can have a rippling effect and can be devastating for a business of any size, in any industry – particularly for small businesses.  SB 220 is a sound initiative that encourages more businesses to properly protect their business ventures, their workforce, and those with whom they do business.

    GCP will continue to proactively engage our members and the legislature on this constantly changing threat to help foster a stronger business environment in the region and beyond.  Swift passage of this common-sense legislation is a worthy goal and we look forward to playing a role in the process by educating stakeholders on the importance of this initiative. 

    Thank you for the opportunity to provide the perspective of our membership.


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  • Next up: Senate Passes Bill Supporting Computer Science in Schools

    Senate Passes Bill Supporting Computer Science in Schools

    The Ohio Senate recently passed HB 170, legislation that would create academic content standards and model curriculum for computer science in Ohio schools. The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature. Greater Cleveland Partnership testified in support of HB 170 as the legislation compliments the organization’s education and workforce efforts to expose students early on to career pathways and develop a talent pipeline for in-demand jobs. 

    “HB 170 will play an important role in helping students develop core skills in computer science that will be relevant to careers in the STEM field,” says Shana Marbury, GCP’s general counsel and senior vice president of education and workforce. “We look forward to the governor signing this legislation.”

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